Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) - A Complete Yoga

As a part of our community project of bringing yoga awareness, Yoga Bharati conducts Yoga Yagna (Yogathon) every year during summer and winter. Surya Namaskar (SN) is one of the core practices of Yogathon. We offer to train the participants FREE of cost to be able to join this Yogathon.

This article attempts to give you a overview of the benefits of SN and the research behind SN.

Table of Content

Uniqueness of Suryanamaskar and its Benefits

  • Uniqueness of Suryanamaskars
  • FAQ on Suryanamaskar
  • Testimonials of people on SN Practice and the effects
  • Modified SN practice for health conditions
  • Institutional Report of a Study of SN by Yoga Bharati(2013)
  • Resources and Links on SN demo and Articles

Uniqueness of Suryanamaskars

Best Energization Technique -Suryanamaskar brings a unique dimension to yoga. It energizes the body through a combination of stimulation and relaxation techniques. It can be singularly useful for people with either Tamas (inertia), Rajas (hyperactivity) or Satva (balance). In every human physiology, we have both stress response and relaxation response but we do not seem to have control over them. Yoga, and especially Suryanamaskar, brings a voluntary control over this involuntary capacity of human physiology and personality.

Best Aerobic tool -Suryanamaskar is also a very effective cardiovascular exercise. There is a common concern that yoga does not provide adequate cardiovascular endurance. Not only does SN practice have cardiovascular benefits it is also least likely to cause injuries to muscles and joints. This is attributed to the continuous variability of muscle length during a flow of 10 postures reducing the probability of the types of injuries typically seen in other forms of aerobic activity. SN practice produces hormonal balance thereby resulting in overall good health. According to research (Pubmed), Suryanamaskar can result in an energy expenditure of 230 kcals during a 30 min session for a 132 lb individual [Journal of Body Work and Movement Therapies. 2011 Jul;15(3):343-7]

Breath Work – The alternate expansion and contraction of the chest helps in regulating and deepening the breath through the practice. For a novice yoga practitioner, it is hard to synchronize breathing with body postures. Regular practice of Suryanamaskar is the best way to learn the breath synchronization aspect of yoga practice.

Sense of body awareness – We are usually not aware of our bodies all the time. If we were, we would be sensitive to our posture, our discomforts and thereby avoid unnecessary wear and tear and be able to detect the onset of diseases. SN practice enhances this body awareness and improves overall quality of life.

Sense of mindfulness – We do most things mindlessly. Once we learn something, it becomes mechanical and then we are mindless about it. Improved body awareness automatically leads to improved mindfulness. SN practice helps immensely in developing this capacity of mindfulness in everything we do. When we are mindful, we commit less mistakes and there are less chances of accidents and we have better control of our emotions and reactions.

Social Transformation – A mindful person is by nature more aware of other people’s feelings and hence tends to exhibit more empathy and kindness. Regular SN practice not only helps individuals with their personal health but benefits the entire society by moving people towards a more harmonious life one individual at a time.

Overall Physiological Benefits - Cyclic Practice of yoga poses in SN helps to loosen up joints and muscles in a short period of time. Abdominal organs are alternately stretched and compressed. This ensures proper functioning of the organs. SN removes nervous tension and anxiety due to the dynamic nature of the practice. This practice also has a profound positive effect on the back as it involves alternate backward and forward bends. It also improves spinal flexibility and results in improved immunity.

Spiritual Benefits

  • Due to a beautiful combination of variability and repetitive nature of SN, it allows individuals to do self-motivated practice without getting bored or mindless and it allows for easy self-maneuvering since it is repetitive in nature.
  • Adding Mantras during the practice removes monotony, provides harmony within and produces soothing vibrations that removes fatigue. Mantras act on various chakras resulting in overall spiritual benefits to the yogi who seeks to grow in spiritual sadhana (practice).
  • Mudras like Namaste and poses like Ashtanga bring humility and remove self-binding ego in the practitioner.
  • Salutations to Sun, the visible divinity in nature allows the practitioner to practice with devotion (shraddha and bhakti). Visualizing the Sun in our heart center brings a sense of peace and wholeness.

FAQ on Suryanamaskar

What is Surya Namaskar?

Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is a series of 10 or 12 poses in a continuous flow, synchronized with the breath. Perform this series every morning and evening, and more if you desire. As always in yoga, practice slowly and consciously. If you practice only a little yoga each day, practice Surya Namaskar. For people with limited time, the Surya Namaskar exercises every muscle and joint while stimulating the body. Surya Namaskar is performed to give reverence to the internal Sun, the creative force that radiates inside the body, and the external Sun, which shines outside the body.

Along with our own practice, help us spread awareness of Surya Namaskar and yoga to our near and dear and make it a part of yourlife.

What is Yoga Yagna - Yogathon?

Yagna means sacrifice. In Indian tradition, there is a havan or yagna kunda where the entire community offers their own contribution to the havan kunda. Yagna brings the community together for a noble cause and builds confidence in the community in their ability to reach a difficult goal. This can be liked to the tradition of Marathon in the west.

Yoga yagna is a Marathon where an individual will set a goal and practices regularly everyday and gradually increases the time duration, number of poses or chantings per day to reach the goal. The idea is to reach the goal set with dedicated practice during the yagna period. 

Significance of Sun in Suryanamaskar practice

Most of the ancient cultures worship the Sun. The Greeks called the Sun god Helius, the Romans referred to him as Titan and Hyperoin, the Egyptians called himRa (Ra-Atum-Khepri). In Mexican culture, he is Kikich Ahau. The Germans call the Sun Sol. In Chinese culture, the Sun represents YANG (Pingala) and the Moon represents YIN (Ida),the basis of everything in nature.

Can people with health conditions such as back pain and hypertension practice Suryanamaskar?

Yes with modifications. Please consult us for modifications. For hypertension participants, if the condition is under control using medications or by natural methods, you can practice SN. But please consult your yoga teacher and your doctor before beginning the practice.

What are the different ailments that are helped by Suryanamaskar?
 
Yoga Bharati yoga therapy classes provide variations for different health conditions so as to enable most of the people with minor health conditions to practice Surya Namaskar. Listen to your body, listen to the instructor and follow the advice of your doctor and the yoga instructor.

  • Pre-diabetes and Cholesterol Control – This is one of the best techniques for people with at-risk for heart disease or diabetes. Dynamic fast paced Suryanamaskar from 10mins-20 mins everyday may bring the risk down in a matter of 3-4 months.  Start with slow pace initially and 6-8 sets and increase the number of sets each week. Ask Yoga Bharati teachers for guidance
  • Diabetes – One of the best techniques to help manage sugar levels as SN practice provides the physical practice, the breath synchronization helps them relax and the alternate stretching and compression of the abdomen region stimulates the pancreas.
  • Hypertension – Can practice SN if BP is under control, however, the practitioner should reduce holding of the poses where the upper part of the body is inverted (eg: forward bending).
  • Sleep disorders – Surya Namaskar is known to be very effective in people with insomnia.
  • Children with ADHD or Autism spectrum – Once SN sequence is taught, children can practice regularly and it is very helpful way to keep them focused and motivated to practice yoga which is otherwise boring for them– Chanting and breath synchronization helps them improve their focus and concentration skills.
  • Backpain – With slight variations, people with mild back pain and without structural issues of the spine/vertebrae can practice SN. Note: people with backpain should not hold the postures too long. They can flow through the poses and SN practice generates endogenous pain killers and is capable of producing pain killer hormones.
  • Heart Conditions – Caution: consult your doctor before beginning. People with heart disease are recommended to do Surya Namaskar after taking doctor’s advice

Who can practice Suryanamaskar?

Anyone with normal health including kids who can perform the practice.

Place of practice?

At home, at work, parks, yoga classes and wherever you can. For Yoga Bharati organized classes visit our classes page.

How do I follow Suryanamaskar Yagna (SNY) Practice?

Please set a realistic, yet challenging goal for yourself, be committed to your pledge and complete your goal every week. Make it a New Year resolution to practice SN every day. Every day practice ten or twelve steps at a stretch in the morning or evening (preferably in the morning). A set of 10 or 12 counts is considered as one Surya Namaskar. Please keep count of the number of sets you practice every day.  Gradually increase the count every day/week.

Any Dos and Don'ts in SN Practice?

  • Must be performed with empty-stomach or a very light stomach
  • Preferable to do this exercise in open, fresh air or a well lit room
  • Can be performed individually as well as in the group
  • Perform on a clean mat. Should be performed with full awareness
  • Desirable to maintain 30 minutes gap for taking bath before or after the practice
  • Women may avoid or practice with caution during peak menstruation period.
  • Avoid the practice during second and third trimesters of pregnancy and you can resume 6 weeks after normal delivery or 2 months after c-section after consulting the doctor.
  • People suffering from hernia, spinal disorders, high BP should practice after consulting the doctor as well as competent yoga instructor

Testimonials of People on Effects of SN Practice

Testimonies of SNY participants:

Female, 42 yrs
“I was suffering from knee pain and slight arthritis. I used to do 2-3 Suryanamaskars earlier. With SNY and research signup, I could easily do 20 rounds after learning how to breathe with SN practice. The mantras and breathing made all the difference and I am now feeling very healthy and positive.”

Female, 44 yrs
“I practiced SN – 20 rounds per day and followed the research protocol to the letter without missing the time of practice or missing the practice any day. I did not know what was the benefit until I visited the ski resort. I had not skied in the last 3 years due to problems and this year, I was able to ski for a full 5 hours without feeling tired or legs hurting. Then I knew what was the benefit of SN practice. I did not do any other physical practice for 6 weeks except SN as suggested in the research protocol. In fact, I felt that my mind and my breathing has slowed down so much that I hardly breathe these days and I feel I am in Kevala Kumbhaka most of the time (effortless suspension of breath after exhalation)”

Female , 41 yrs
“I have arthritis and could not climb big stairs. Here I am climbing the stage, thanks to SN. My flexibility has improved and my overall health has improved and I feel very energetic.”

Male, 38 yrs
“I have anxiety and depression issue. With SN practice, I feel much more calmer and positive. I would participate in SN Yagna every year, but not do so regularly. With research protocol, I signed up for 50 rounds and I followed the protocol to the letter and I can see a huge improvement in my overall health and especially in my anxiety/depression issues.”

Male, 40 yrs
“I had a neck problem – with pain level 7 out of 10. With SN practice, now my pain level is 3 and I feel that I have improved in overall flexibility and overall health.”

Female, 43 yrs
“I have suffered from PCOS and have always had issues with Ovarian pain mid-cycles. But, practicing Surya Namaskars regularly last 4 to 5 months and accelerated with SNY, my ovarian pain has vanished! Also, I recently had an ultra sound which has shown that the cysts have diss-appeared with just very tiny being one present now. This is a great progress for me! Ever since I have taken up doing SNY, I have seen great benefits with my nasal blocking I suffer from every morning. Doing the Parvathasana has some great effect and helps breathe easy. I feel that I am even thinking more positively now.”

Male, 47 yrs
“With Suryanamaskars, (50 rounds per protocol), I did feel happier, very energetic for the entire day. It gave very good feeling and set the great mood for the entire day. I did feel very positive during the day. I felt muscles and body where toned up. It really helped me sleep much better in the night. I got very sound sleep every night. I got addicted to SN and waited for the next morning to do SN. Some mornings when I felt tired and felt like skipping SN, but I pushed myself and did 50 rounds of SN and that would bring the energy in the body. So it was a good thing that I didn’t skip yoga that day. I really felt like doing more rounds of SN. SN also helped me handle my stress level. It helped me stay energetic despite driving in stop and go heavy traffic. It helped me handle stress in daily life.”

Male, 48 yrs
“I participated in SN Research and practiced 50 rounds per day. I felt very good. One day, I got lost in Santa Cruz and I had to drive around for 3 hours. On other days, I would have been very stressed out and upset, but thanks to Suryanamaskars, I feel more relaxed and positive and I was able to handle this event much better.”

Mother of 2 Girls
“Thank you so much Yogabharathi for organizing Suryanamaskar Yagna. I just wanted to share that both my daughters (7 years and 5 years) have developed this habit of doing Surya Namaskar with me because of your Yagna. We had a goal of doing 12 Surya namaskars daily. Of course, initially for a week or so, I had to push them a bit especially during the weekdays in the morning. But now it is a habit and they do enjoy doing it and that is what I love about. And today, when I was taking a bath, I asked them to go and finish the Suryanamaskars and before when I came down, they were so happy and told me that they did 30 Suryanamaskars. The happiness in their face is still in my mind’s camera. They feel so nice when they see the log in the web site too. It just could not have happened without Yogabharathi’s dedication and effort.”

Modifications to Classic Surya Namaskar for Health Considerations

Tiger Stretch Suryanamaskar (Cat/Cow pose added to SN)

Surya Namaskar Modified practice for people with shoulder pain and wrist pain.

Classic 10 step Dynamic Surya Namaskar.

People with back pain with no structural issues can practice with knee softening during forward bends, or forward bending squats during steps 2 and 9.

CLassic 10-step dynamic Suryanamaskar

CLassic 10-step dynamic Suryanamaskar

Surya Namaskar for shoulder pain and wrist pain

Surya Namaskar for shoulder pain and wrist pain

Surya Namaskar on Chair - for Arthritis and other condtions

Surya Namaskar on Chair - for Arthritis and other condtions

 

Chair Suryanamaskar

Surya Namaskar on Chair for Arthritis of the Knee or general Knee pain and other health conditions that do not enable people to practice on the mat

Surya Namaskar 2013 Institutional Report